McGill’s Teaching Assistants (TAs) voted in favour of a strike mandate at a special meeting last week, empowering their union to declare an unlimited strike at the “most opportune moment.” Unless the administration finally decides to steer negotiations in the right direction, TAs might be picketing as undergrads write their final exams. We’re hardly looking forward to this mess, but undergraduates should strongly support their TAs.
The TA union’s demands are simple and straightforward. Higher salaries, better office space, paid training, smaller conference sizes, and a standardized workload are not luxuries – they are reasonable provisions that any educator should have. If granted, TAs’ requests will help undergraduates; anyone who has ever watched a lone TA lead a 40-person conference understands why these changes are necessary.
The strike mandate is no surprise. The admin and the TAs have been arguing since their agreement expired last June. Eight months of negotiations – nearly 300 days – have generated few results. TAs say they are willing to compromise, and we support them in whatever they decide to do.
The mandate, however, does not guarantee a strike. As last-minute negotiations continue today, the administration has a final chance to actually bargain with the union. No one wants a strike. It will inconvenience TAs, students, and the administration as well. But unless McGill starts treating its frontline educators with respect, a protracted dispute looks inevitable.
We’re heartened by the support we’ve heard from many of our professors, by SSMU’s endorsement of the TAs, and by the reams of emails you’ve sent to the administration. No undergrad is looking forward to the likelihood of this strike. But we know that the inconvenience we’ll bear pales next to the benefits a new contract will bring TAs. If TAs go on strike, show them your support – we’re all fighting for the right to a better learning environment.